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PA – OPINION – The economy is struggling, but gun sales are soaring

Long before you find yourself standing in front of the Smoke N’ Guns shop, the delicate aroma of coffee beans and hand-rolled cigars beckons your senses as you walk along Allegheny River Boulevard. Outside the shop, four black leather chairs spread a respectable 6 feet apart are waiting for either the overflow of customers or locals such as Marcello Frollo to hold court. He enjoys a rolled cigar along with his double espresso as he listens to the cars rumble along the brick-lined street. Inside, the store is a visual delight, with a coffee bar and a handful of tables and chairs at the entrance. Boxes filled with the best cigars money can buy are stacked high, and an impressive walk-in humidor is designed to keep them preserved at the perfect temperature. In the back, a balcony overlooks the rest of the store and spans its entire width. A glass display case with an array of long guns hangs along the wall. Gregory “Gooch” Ionadi, the owner, waits to help you find the gun you need or want to protect yourself. That is, if there are any left to buy. “Prior to the COVID outbreak, President Obama was the best gun salesman we ever had,” says Ionadi. “Anytime he was going to ban this, ban that, there was a rush on gun sales. When President Trump was elected, the fear of a gun ban subsided, and sales were so flat that several gun manufacturers went out of business.” Things changed dramatically in gun shops across the country in February, when the first concentrated COVID-19 cases in one town were reported out of New Rochelle, N.Y. “We made more here in … March and April than we did in the last three years,” he says. It wasn’t just his regular customers walking in the door or calling the store. Many of them never imagined themselves owning a gun, an experience reflected in the latest FBI statistics on background checks associated with the sale, transfer or permitting of firearms. An all-time sales high was recorded in March, when the virus outbreak hit and much of the country closed down: The FBI saw 3.7 million background checks.  [full article]

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